Past Climate and Sea Level: Processes and Proxies

Course content

The course is composed of theory and case-studies. The theory part comprises an introduction to selected climate archives, marine and terrestrial system processes, and additional proxies. Important sedimentary and geochemical proxies, including isotopes, are covered and students are trained in critical reading of scientific key literature. Cases may deal with past climate change, long term carbon cycle and/or seawater geochemical changes, on time scales ranging from thousands to multi-millions of years. Focus will be on pre-Quaternary systems, but items treated may change from year to year. Data collected during laboratory and/or field work are analysed and critically evaluated. 

The aim of the course is to provide an overview of past climate and sea-level changes focused on how these changes are observed in the sedimentary records, and what processes, interactions and feedbacks between the components of the climate system may have led to the signal in the sedimentary archives. The course is composed of theory and case-studies. The theory part comprises an introduction to climate archives and marine and terrestrial system processes. Important sedimentary and geochemical proxies, including isotopes, are explained and students are trained in the evaluation of such data. Examples may deal with past climate changes, long-term carbon cycle perturbations and/or modifications of seawater geochemistry on time scales ranging from thousands to multi-millions of years. In the last weeks of the course, students read key papers and produce a review report or write a report about field/laboratory work/data. The students have the necessary background for understanding the importance of observations and hypothesis testing. They should have developed skills in analysing multiple datasets and in interpretation of which process feedbacks lead to the observations; and they should be able to evaluate the validity of geological data archives and to model results through comparative studies.


MSc Programme in Environmental Science
MSc Programme in Geology-Geoscience

Learning outcome

• Describe the main drivers and patterns of the Climate system of the Earth
• Understand what controls sea-level changes
• Relate sea-level change and climate evolution at different timescales
• Describe some of the most important marine and terrestrial system processes
• Apply sedimentary, biotic and geochemical proxies to reconstruct past climates
• Critical evaluate scientific literature
• Interpret geological climate signals
• Place interpretations of climate archives or climate systems in a wider perspective
• Read and understand scientific literature on climate systems and geological climate archives
• Use relevant definitions and terms
• Describe data from geological climate archives
• Write a concise report

The form of teaching is theory exercises combined with ad hoc lectures and 3 to 4 days field trip. For the teaching plan, please see Absalon.

Please see Absalon.

BSc in Geology-Geoscience or equivalent is recommended.

Participation at first lecture is necessary to plan the excursion.

Students shall pay for their own travel to and from the field-work area, as well as entry visa (if required), vaccinations (if required) and personal medicine (e.g. malaria medication) and 125 DKK per day for food and lodging. For outside DK destinations the students are required to take out a private illness and repatriation insurance covering the field period. Detailed information about payment can be found on the Absalon course page.


Oral feedback will be given during the classes.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, Ongoing
Oral examination, 20 minutes.
The written assignment is prepared during the course and must be handed in prior to the exam week. The oral exam uses the written assignment as its point of departure. There is no preparation for the oral exam. It includes the titles listed in the officially approved reading list. A combined grade is given after the oral exam.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See learing outcome.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 135
  • Theory exercises
  • 35
  • Excursions
  • 36
  • English
  • 206